How Alzheimer's made me a better person
You know what’s weird? Alzheimer’s has made me a better person. Don’t get me wrong, I am 41 and I do not have Alzheimers… yet. My family carries a rare genetic mutation that causes early onset Alzheimer’s at around the age of 50. My grandfather died of early onset Alzheimer’s the first year I was born, my father began showing symptoms at age 52 and passed away this year at age 66. I don’t know if I carry the same genetic mutation (PSEN2) or not. Why haven’t I found out? That’s a post for another day. But how has this horrible disease made me a better person? Let me try to explain.
Why am I alive? What’s my purpose in life? What or who do I care about most? What do I want to accomplish before I die? Existential questions like these might float in and out of our thinking at random or when we share a quality adult beverage with a close friend and then we typically laugh it off. But what if we didn’t?
Thanks to my potentially faulty genetics, I’ve been chewing on these deep, meaningful questions for over a decade — discussing them with friends, family members, counselors, pastors, coaches, gurus, and pouring over my own thoughts in journals. And thanks to those discussions, I’ve made real and lasting changes in my life. I’ve chosen my line of work intentionally to provide more flexibility. I’ve sacrificed some office time to be with my young family. I’ve spent more money on experiences than on material possessions. I’ve slowed down and smelled the roses more than I probably would have otherwise. All because I might get Alzheimers in the next 10 years.
Now, maybe you don’t value the same things I do. I’m not challenging your values at all. I’m challenging you to intentionally live out your values to the fullest. That, my friends, is how Alzheimer’s has made me a better person — intentionality. At the risk of being extremely cheesy, there’s a line in a country song that says it well, “I hope someday you’ll get the chance to live like you were dying.”